Personal renewal usually starts with good intentions. I know that I have planned how I was going to loose weight, sleep more, eat healthier, do more fun stuff, at least a hundred times. Every New Year’s Day, every birthday, every new accommodation, every new city brings with it a clean slate mentality. Here, now, is the opportunity to start over, to do something that I have been putting off, to embark on a journey towards self discovery and self actualisation.
The problem with these grand plans is that they are too big for me. Whenever I make a decision (that I am going to eat X calories and take Y number of steps each day, that I will wake up at 7am and study 4 hours after work come rain or shine, that I will read 500 books next week), I become obsessed with tracking my progress and if I lapse in of my thousand daily to-dos, I am prone to just fold it altogether. I know this. I know, and still, I keep falling into this hole, because I convince myself that tracking progress helps me see progress, that it helps me achieve more as my competitive side takes over and I want to outdo yesterday’s me. In a way, tracking does help, because I know what I am actually doing that is beneficial (taking vitamins every day) what is unrealistic, no matter how much I want it (not having coffee every day).
I have spent hours uncountable writing lists, making plans, setting start dates, and I have to admit, they rarely played out as I hoped they would in an ideal world. At the same time, some impromptu decisions stuck with me, forming into a habit more easily. I have taken up the regular habit of tracking my daily calorie intake not when I made a conscious planned decision and spend hours setting up a lovely excel sheet, but when it occurred to me that “oh, I could do that with an app”, and from then on, I did so. Some plans, even if made with the best of intentions, need some maturation in order to be materialised. I have a feeling that I will forever be a tracker, but I can do so without belittling whatever progress I have made whenever I have a little lapse. This shift in mentality from beating myself up over nothing to acknowledging small victories and the long term nature of most developmental processes, I believe, will contribute tremendously to my mental well-being and my personal growth.
At the same time, I realised that there are things in life that simply do not need a progress tracker to tell us how we are doing or where we are headed. I know when it’s time to skype with my family, and I know when I feel down or in need of encouragement, or when I just want to have some fun, I have friends I can turn to and who will be there.
While I cannot fully ditch my tracking habit, I can try and use it as an aid instead of an obsession. It can help me in developing habits that are good for me, such as taking my vitamins or reading books I’ve been meaning to for years. These past few months I have been able to focus on a lot of hedonistic pursuits that are not as self destructive as the convenient constant-snacking and sleep deprivation that I did last year. I have been reading, writing, going out to new places, spending time with friends who I missed dearly. And I’ve managed to get some guilt-free sleep.
I know that taking care of me is not a burden, but a must. Not just because if I don’t do it, nobody else will, not just because I only get this one life, but because I deserve it.